Do the Red Sox lose brand appeal by winning?

October 31, 2013

On Halloween morning 2013 legions of young Red Sox fans awoke to once again convince their parents to take them to the Red Sox victory parade. This is normal. The Red Sox get to the World Series all the time. And when they get there they win.

With all the talk of the worst-to-first turnaround, the biggest thing that may have changed is the Red Sox brand. Born in Boston in the 70s I grew up rooting for the same Red Sox team as my dad—losers who would sometimes be good enough to make losing still hurt. 1918 and curses were what Sox fans talked about. Not parades. It defined the team, the city and its fans. Losing was part of the brand. It defined the experience, if not the goal. These were the Yawkey Red Sox. Jean and John Yawkey dominated the landscape of Boston sports for decades. For all of their work, they have more streets named after them than they have titles. And while many blamed them for losing, it was bigger then them. Its not like some new hot-shot owner could come in and start winning. Right?

And win he did. With the arrival of John Henry and Theo Epstein and sabermetrics and everything else came winning. First, just success in the early rounds of the post-season. Then it was beating the Yankees. Then sweeping a World Series. Then another one. And now, yes, a third in ten years. This is starting to be a trend. One that has fundamentally changed the Red Sox brand. Now, rooting for the Red Sox—particularly if you don’t live in the Commonwealth is bandwagon sports. Real baseball fans used to root for the Sox. Now girls in pink hats do (my wife has one, sorry Kelly).

The change from lovable losers to big market powerhouse has certainly been embraced by Boston fans and the money machine that the Red Sox represent. But is it good for baseball? Are the Cubs a suitable replacement for the hapless Yawkey Sox? Sports need stories to work and I can’t help but think baseball has lost something with this new Henry Sox brand. We have money, we spend it and we win. Kind of like….

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